FAMILY DINNER by Jane Cutler


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When Great-uncle Benson roars in on his motorcycle for a long visit, ten-year-old Rachel discovers a soul mate: he listens to her, cares about the things she cares about, and, like her, treats everyone, adult or child, with intelligent respect. He's disturbed, though, that Rachel's family doesn't have sit-down dinners--""How in the world can you have a family, if you don't have family dinner?"" Benson whips up a series of tempting concoctions, and Rachel persuades her parents, and her older brother and sister, to give the custom a try. Cutler infuses her story with the same friendly domestic air that Patricia Maclachlan Drinks to her writing. The characters here (with the notable exception of the Mrs. Malaprop of a housekeeper--""It's as plain as the nose on your plate"") aren't as eccentric as those in, say, Unclaimed Treasures (1984), but they're distinct and believable, with stories of their own. The experimental meal is a total failure, but the plot takes a gentle twist at the end when Benson, Rachel, and a group of friends and neighbors sit down together the next clay over leftovers, proving that the sociability of family-style dinners can survive, even if not in a particular family. Caswell's precise soft-pencil illustrations are unusually perceptive and creatively staged to dramatize relationships.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1992
Page count: 117pp
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"